We spent our last day with Nadine and Felix checking off the final items from our to-do list. These were mostly our shopping-related chores. Namely, finding them fun T-shirts, and finding us the things we'd need for our little red car.
The countries we are travelling through all have varying requirements for safety items which must be present in our vehicle. So, a quick trip to a Home Depot-like store got us all sorted out with reflective vests, a fire extinguisher, a safety triangle to put in the road heaven forbid we have some sort of accident, and jumper cables. We also bought a cheap blanket to cover our belongings, hopefully making our back seat un-inviting to possible burglars.
Here we are, Mr & Mrs. Safety.
T-shirt shopping was successful as well. Felix and Nadine found just the right ones for themselves, as well as a birthday present for Felix' sister-in-law.
Lastly, Tyler has been wanting to "learn something new" for a week or two. A few days ago, he decided that this something would be trying his hand at black-and-white film photography. He almost bought an aging 35mm Nikon FM2 (which, handily works with all our lenses). But, ultimately, he was more drawn to this old medium format camera, a Belca Belfoca.
It was made in East Germany in the 50s! Everything about it is manual and mechanical. The shutter is reminiscent of a wind-up toy; you have to cock it (winding the spring?) and then choose the speed. You can't see through the lens, so setting focus is a guessing game; there are distance markings on the side though. You're supposed to set it to match the distance of the first thing you want in focus. This should be interesting! So, armed with a few rolls of black-and-white Ilford HP5 Plus 400, and the hope that we'll get at least one good frame out of the experiment, we headed off.
Important shopping done, Felix and I sat down for sushi, while Tyler and Nadine went in search of the perfect doner kebab. We ate, enjoying our final afternoon of our final adventure together (that is, until they come get our little red car in Mongolia -hint, hint- or fly to meet us in Thailand, perhaps…). One last stop at a bakery so I could try a fried berliner, and we were ready to part ways.
We will miss you guys so much!
And so, we drove out of Berlin without a plan. It was five o'clock already, and we briefly considered staying another night at the campsite or hostel to re-group and plan our route a bit. Tyler could work and we could get caught up on journals. We could stock up on groceries, and make sure we had all our ducks in a row. But we decided against those ideas in favor of adventure. We just up and left. Heading generally east.
We vaguely recalled Felix saying that Frankfurt was the closest border crossing into Poland, so that's where we pointed our car.
Grey clouds filled the skies, and soon we were driving in heavy rain. Our little Corolla performed admirably, twenty year old wipers keeping up with the deluge and all!
We drove past the standard beautiful German forests we've grown accustomed to, and marveled at our ability to cover so much distance in so little time.
Before we knew it, we were approaching the Polish border. I got the passports ready, as well as our papers for the car. We passed this sign.
We waited for the checkpoint, the part where we'd have to stop and get stamped into the country. Except it never happened. Everyone just drove right through, not a policeman in sight, and we were left asking "Wait, are we in Poland?" "I guess we're in Poland." "Well that was easy."
Almost immediately after crossing the border, everything was quieter. It felt like we were back in Serbia or Macedonia. There was road work happening everywhere, I began spotting mini-markets again, and the houses were distinctly different than Germany's.
We pulled over to the side of the road for a celebratory round of Polish photo-taking, and cranked up the radio to hear what our newest language was going to sound like.
Normally we prepare at least a little bit for entering a new country. At a minimum, we learn basic words like "hello", "please", and "thank you." But this time, we knew nothing. We didn't even know what the currency was, but we dubbed it "schlotzkies" because somewhere in the back of our minds we thought it was something similar.
Passing through a town, we stopped at a large grocery store and grabbed things off the shelves with no clue as to the exchange rate. We hoped they would take euros or credit cards. They took neither. So, I held our bundle of Polish goodies while Tyler drove off in search of an ATM. Soon he returned, zloty in hand.
Once our shopping was done, we took to the back country roads. This was it! This was the adventure we were hoping to have. It felt so good to be on the road once more, bumbling our way through Poland.
We're in Poland. We're in Poland! We're in Poland of all places!
While Tyler drove, I took pictures, hanging my head out the window. We found that our perfect driving pace was about 40-60 kilometers per hour. Any more than that and we just felt like we were going too fast. We felt like old people, scolding everyone who blew by us in a "hurry".
Soon it started to get dark, and we looked at each other and shrugged. What now? We should probably camp, huh? I mean, we could keep driving forever, really. Or we could get some sort of hotel? We had passed a few, and we had even seen signs for a campsite.
This being the first day of our car trip adventure, we didn't have a plan or a routine. This prospect was both freeing, and a little daunting.
In the end, we decided to free-camp.
Tyler backed our little red car down an overgrown road that branched off from the already little-used thoroughfare we had been on.
He parked off of the path a bit, and we set up camp as usual.
Just us, our tent, and our little red car. Right at home. Somewhere in Poland.